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13 must-see attractions in Thessaloniki

The capital of the North has been a crossroad for cultures that left their marks on the city. Its history, buildings, museums and archaeological sites hold the interest of the visitor unabated with their every step. From the city’s emblem, the White Tower, to the Byzantine Castle and from the Nea Paralia (New Seafront) to the area of Ladadika, Thessaloniki will guide you through trails that you will remember forever.

Discover the most important attractions in Thessaloniki

White Tower

The city’s emblematic tower is undeniably its most DoDo attraction/monument, attracting hundreds of visitors daily. The 34 meters tall tower is divided into six floors that each host collections with the city’s history. At the entrance you receive a free audio guide*, which offers lots of historical information about the tower, as well as the city. The magic, though, is captured at its top, where, after going up 96 wide, spiraling steps, you will have the chance to admire a panoramic view of the beautiful city of Thessaloniki. It is worth mentioning that the rooms are not air-conditioned, which makes the summer tour a bit hard. Finally, the ideal time to visit it is right before sundown, so you can enjoy the amazing colors in which the sky dresses the Nymph of the North.

*The audio guide is not given to Greeks, as everything is written in Greek

Suggested visit time: 1-2 hours
Open: Every day. November-March 09:00-16:00 & April-October 08:00-20:00. Closed: Easter, May 1st
Cost: High season (April-October) Standard ticket 8€ – Reduced 4€. For the rest of the year 4€ general entrance. Free for unemployed, university students, school students of the E.U.

 The Know it all says: In 1890, tower-imprisoned Nathan Guéledi agreed to whitewash it, in exchange for his freedom. Since then, it is referred to as Beyaz-Kule, namely the White Tower!

Nea Paralia (seafront)

The new seafront is the ideal place to spend a few hours and get…lost in its beauty. Thousands of people of every age, couples, groups and families visit it daily, to relax, exercise and spend some carefree hours, gazing at Thermaikos Bay. Along it you will find the imposing statue of Alexander the Great, the fountains’ square and the umbrella-themed artwork, which became a must attraction since the first day of its installation, in 1997. Furthermore, from the Opera House to the White Tower, there are theme parks, sports courts and canteens, which make it even more interesting. The ideal time to visit it would be around dusk, when all the colors of the sky get entangled with the sea’s reflections, offering a magical result. Cross it on foot, on a carriage and by single or family bike (rent HERE). Care for a walk at Paralia.

Important: The hours when it is less crowded are 08:00-10:00 in the morning and 15:00-17:00 in the afternoon (on weekdays). It is safe throughout the whole day and night

Suggested visit time: 2-3 hours
Open: Always
Cost: Free

 The Know it all says: Thessalonikians used to swim there, before it was landfilled!

Arch of Galerius (Kamara)-Rotunda

The triumphant arch of Galerius is one of Thessaloniki’s most important monuments. It stands at the heart of Egnatia Street for more than 17 centuries and symbolizes the city’s prosperity, after the battles against the Persians. Nowadays, it goes by the name of “Kamara” and it is the most popular meeting point for Thessalonikians and especially students, as it is located next to the campus. 200 meters north of it we find one more impressive construction of Galerius (UNESCO monument), the Rotunda, which used to be directly connected to the arch. It may seem empty, but it carries a long history, as it has been an important religious site, being the Metropolis of Thessaloniki for a few years (before being transformed into a mosque by the Ottomans). The site’s redevelopment and restoration lasted for almost 100 years, while its gates opened to the public just in 2015. The extremely affordable ticket and the heavy heritage classify it as a monument worthy of visiting.

Suggested visit time: 30-40 minutes
Open: Kamara: Always. Rotunda: Every day, Winter Schedule: 08:00-17:00 & Summer schedule 08:00-19:00
Cost: Kamara: Free. Rotunda: Standard ticket 2€ – Reduced 1€. Free for unemployed, university students, school students of the E.U.

 The Know it all says: The tram line used to pass under the Kamara until 1954 (when it was abolished)!

Hagia Sophia

This is the most prominent, paleo-christian byzantine temple of Thessaloniki and it has been proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Hagia Sophia is located in the city center and carries a long history of 16 centuries, which make it one of the most important religious sites of Greece. Its interior is dull, as all of its murals were covered with dark colors during the period of the Ottoman occupation, when it was turned into a mosque. It also looks quite neglected, as the department of archaeologies does not often attend to its preservation. The few hours that it remains open, it attracts dozens of visitors that want to see it and attend its liturgies. Around the church, you will find lots of stores for shopping, coffee, drinks and dining, as well as the newly developed pedestrian street that gives you the chance to spend a few pleasant hours.

Suggested visit time: 30-45 minutes
Open: Every day 07:30-13:00 & 17:00-19:00
Cost: Free

 The Know it all says: This church has the highest pedestrian crossing rates in northern Greece!

Byzantine Walls

The Byzantine walls are located at Thessaloniki’s northern part and they have protected her until today, 17 centuries later! The 7km-long walls did not only delimit the city, but they were also the strongest defensive weapon against any enemies. Walking along the Byzantine castles, you will take a journey through time, with the city’s living history by your side. Start your tour at the hospital of Hagios Demetrios and move uphill along them, making a coffee stop at the “Ohi” (=No) Boulevard. With the Nymph of the North lying under your feet, continue for the Trigono Tower, from where you will enjoy the best view of the city and catch a few breaths before the final destination, which is the Eptapyrgio or Thessaloniki’s Acropolis. Over there, among the rocks and ruins, you get to meet the prison of Yedikule and the historically significant surrounding space. Finally, take advantage of every standpoint that will offer you some very special views of the city.

Suggested visit time: 3-4 hours in total
Open: Always for the Castles and the Tower of Trigonio and 08:00-15:00 for the Eptapyrgio
Cost: Free

 The Know it all says: Their shape was trapezoid and their perimeter was almost 7 kilometers, of which only 3 have survived!

Aristotelous Street-Tsimiski Street

These are the city’s most well-known and popular streets. Although they are both in the city center, they differ both in structure and appearance. The only common thing is that they are crossed! Aristotelous is a 500m long pedestrian street that starts at the seafront and its most striking feature is the Neo-Byzantine architecture. Columns, alleys and arches dominate each of the 12(!) buildings that surround it, reminding something of the Rue de Rivoli. At its start, you will find the largest and most famous square of the city, which hosts many restaurants and cafés. Also, from time to time, important events and happenings are being held there. Tsimiski Street, on the other hand, is the city’s most busy and commercial street. Along it there are more than 300 stores, like banks, multi-stores and a handful of catering stores. It’s the street than never “sleeps”, as it is full of life even after midnight. The two streets are so different but so beautiful as well, and you will grasp their vividness only when you pass by them in every hour. Finally, close to their junction, you will find the “Makedonia” mall.

Suggested visit time: 3-4 hours in total
Open: Always
Cost: Free

 The Know it all says: Tsimiski Street has existed since before the Balkan Wars and it was called “Second Parallel”!

Museum of Byzantine Culture

This one is a diamond of a museum that carries the history of hundreds of years. Thessaloniki, as Byzantium’s second most important city (after Constantinople) has got hundreds of Byzantine artifacts, from the 3rd to the 19th cent. A.D., assorted in the museum’s 11 halls. The halls’ layout is such, so that there is flow and continuity as far as the thematic content goes, as well as the chronological origins. Furthermore, the low, discreet lighting in combination with the building’s cleanliness and beautiful structure manage to showcase the space and the exhibits even more. The museum is especially popular with students, who visit it on weekdays (during the school year) in an educational context. Ideal days and hours of visit are Saturday and Sunday 13:00-16:00. Finally, if you have some free time, you can sit at the museum’s charming café, but bear in mind that prices are quite high.

Suggested visit time: 1.5-2 hours
Open: Every day November 1st-March 31st 09:00-16:00 & April 1st-October 31st 08:00-20:00
Cost: Free

 The Know it all says: The Museum’s collections consist of 46,000 pieces!

Hagios Demetrios (Saint Demetrius)-Crypt

The much-afflicted church of the patron saint of the city is one of its most DoDo monuments. The paleo-christian temple is dated back to the 5th century A.D. and it stands out for its structure, murals, mosaics and byzantine icons. Attention is also drawn to the rare hexagonal chancel, to the remains of Hagios Demetrios, Hagios Grigorios Kallides and Hagia Anysia. In the basement you will find the crypt, where Hagios Demetrios was imprisoned and martyred in 303 A.D. Nowadays, the crypt is of great interest, as it operates as a museum, hosting many exhibits from different time periods. It is also worth mentioning that it is a very important monument of religious tourism, with large crowds from central and eastern Europe visiting it daily. Finally, the church’s commercialization leaves a bad impression, as it does not befit its atmosphere of reverence.

Suggested visit time: 30-45 minutes
Open:
Church: Every day 08:00-20:00 Crypt: 08:00 15:00 Tuesday-Thursday, 08:00-13:30 & 19:00-22:00 Friday, 07:30-14:30 Saturday-Sunday
Cost: Free

 The Know it all says: During the Ottoman rule, the church’s sculptures were used as building material for the construction of the minaret, as well as for floor coating (it was turned into a mosque)!

Ladadika

A unique area in the city center is that of the famous Ladadika. This is a neighborhood that has remained in the past, but has also adapted to the present. The once blighted market got its name from the oil merchants that used to be there, while nowadays, after building renovations and square redevelopments, it has become the heart of the night life. The striking contrast between the old buildings and modern decorations makes it the most DoDo neighborhood for entertainment in the city. Along the narrow, cobbled streets you will find espresso bars, taverns, raki-shops, restaurants, pubs, clubs and bars with live music that cover every taste and offer endless entertainment to people of all ages. The streets are bustling with life during every hour of day and mostly of night, while on weekends every single store is completely packed. Let the area’s vigorousness carry you away and don’t worry about how many glasses of wine you are going to drink; the atmosphere calls for it.

Suggested visit time: 1-2 hours
Open: Always
Cost: Free

 The Know it all says: In the mid-17th century it was an Egyptian market with more than 500 stores!

Port-Museum of Cinema

The co-capital’s Port has been around for more than 17(!) centuries, which makes it one of the oldest ones in the country. Nowadays, the site has been reformed and offered for walks, endless hours of relaxation and fun. People of all ages take their coffee, snacks or a guitar and gaze at Thermaikos Bay from the wooden pier. In the surrounding space there are warehouses, housing restaurants, bars, the Museum of Photography, the Center of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Cinema. In the latter, in an imaginative space that has the form of a film, the story of the Greek Seventh Art gets unraveled, as well as parts from the life of great Greek actors and actresses, in two languages (En, Gr). If you are a cinema nut, do not ignore it. Finally, it is worth mentioning that various events are held inside the Port, with the Film Festival being the most well-known.

Suggested visit time: 1-1.5 hours
Open: Port: Always, Museum of Cinema: Monday-Thursday 09:00-15:00 & Friday 09:00-20:00. Closed: Weekends
Cost: Free, Museum of Cinema: General entrance 2€, Reduced 1€.

 The Know it all says: Every year 70,000 friends of the 7th Art watch the 150 films shown at the Film Festival!

Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki

The museum hosts rare archaeological finds from all over Macedonia and it is housed in a clean, well-kept and perfectly designed building in the city center. It includes four permanent exhibitions, two of which are on the ground floor (forming two “Π”s, one inside the other), one on the basement and the last one at the exterior space. In the large “Π” you will admire finds from the 7th century B.C., which have to do with the birth of the cities and their development, while in the small one you will find an exhibition about the Macedonians’ gold. In the basement you will find the prominent prehistoric collection from 350,000 B.C. (!!) and finally, in the courtyard there are sarcophagi, shrines and parts of houses showcased. But, aside from the permanent ones, the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions* with an interesting theme palette. Upon finishing the tour, you can have a cup of coffee in the specially designed, outdoor space of the museum.

*During the time period of our visit the themes were “Raidestos-the refugee journey and the DNA”.

Suggested visit time: 1-1.5 hours
Open: Every day 08:00-20:00. Closed: December 25th/26th, January 1st, March 25th, May 1st & Easter.
Cost: Standard ticket 8€ – Reduced 4€. Free for unemployed, university students, school students of the E.U.

 The Know it all says: It hosts Europe’s most ancient “book” (Derveni Papyrus)!

Modiano-Kapani Markets

These two are the city’s most well-known markets, with a long history. The famous Modiano alley used to be the hottest place for any kind of purchase. Its stands were full of the freshest products, while the smells from spices, freshly-cut coffee and all kinds of delicacies went as far as Aristotelous Square. Nowadays, most shops are closed and its image is heart-breaking. The Kapani outdoor market, on the other hand, is still operating normally, but this does not mean that it hasn’t lost the glory and quality of the past. It is defined by four major streets (Aristotelous, El. Venizelou, V. Irakleiou & Egnatia) and on its stands you can find food items, clothing and footwear items, home products and souvenirs. The once grand markets might have turned into victims of the multinationals, but a visit will gift you with an oriental taste and a unique aroma, which you will not find easily in the rest of, today’s, European Thessaloniki.

Suggested visit time: 1-3 hours
Open: Store operating hours
Cost: Free

 The Know it all says: Today’s “Kapani” market with the thousands of goods once was a flour market. (Un-Kapan means flour market)!

Navarinou Square-Palace of Galerius

Going down the road from Kamara to Tsimiski Street, you will find the Navarinou Square. This is the city’s most alternative square with hordes of students crossing it daily, while on the mantels of the once great palace, one can meet groups of friends, members of old local families, enamored couples, street artists and merchants, punks and goths, each one leaving their mark on the square’s character. At its center, you can see Galerius’ palace complex, which you can visit on limited days and hours. At night it gains an infamous beauty, which makes its crossing dangerous. The area has, unfortunately, been degraded, but it tries not to lose its identity. Among the student cafés, the tattoo shops and the large number of fast food shops, you have the chance to try the most delicious, sweet crepe of the city.

Suggested visit time: 1-1.5 hours
Open: Tuesday-Wednesday 08:00-15:00 Closed: Monday, Thursday-Sunday
Cost: Free

 The Know it all says: It used to be the city’s largest royal palace and it spread across 150 acres!
 


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